Enter Five

Five is hard to pin down. We take him to a party and he sits between Sophistication and Forty-Two, discussing the complex engineering challenges of Legos. He has an opinion about everything, and doesn’t hesitate to interrupt in order to share it. When Politeness reminds him to wait for the end of another’s sentence, he wavers between holding Maturity’s hand under the table, or stormily inviting Temper to come play in his room with him. Curiosity sometimes steps on Politeness’ foot, however, because she’s so delighted by the way Five’s descriptions come out as poems.

Five’s sister is Sturdiness, and he always takes her side, sometimes even whispering naughty ideas into her ear when she gets in trouble with Bottom Line. Five carries a snapping flag of golden silk, which he’s often tempted to flick into your face just to see what you will do. But when he forgets about it, the long fabric unfurls behind him into a magnificent sunrise all unnoticed by him as he streaks from one end of your house to the other, chasing Laughter.

Walking outside with him after a storm, he will stop suddenly to stare at a wheel ditch filled with muddy water. If you ask him what he’s thinking, he’ll tell you that he’s discovered the source of Muck, and suddenly the slick mud will look delicious to you, as if you could scoop it into your mouth and taste Revelation. Five collects the magic stones Beauty points out to him, and saves them in his pockets for Safety. If he comes up to stand silently beside you and tugs your sleeve, always listen. His gifts are small and endless.

Inspired by J. Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities (1984), and my son.

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